THE WOODLANDS, Texas In what has become a cult phenomenon, the Discovery Channel concludes its celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Shark Week with a series of programs answering everything you ve ever wanted to know about the oceans greatest predator. Or did it?
Woodlands resident, Paul Spielvogel, real estate attorney and escrow officer for American Title Company, shark diver and acclaimed photographer for Shark Diver Magazine, provided insight into what we don t know about sharks.
Spielvogel s magnificent underwater photography has been featured in numerous other publications. One of Spielvogel s photographs of a diver interacting with a Lemon shark recently went viral over the Internet, appeared on Inside Edition and was published in numerous world-wide publications with over forty million views to date.
Receiving his diver certification at the earliest possible age of 16, Spielvogel was mesmerized by the television series, Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges, and the undersea exploits of the legendary Jacques Cousteau. Originally fascinated with the undersea world in its entirety, Spielvogel s fascination with sharks has become his passion and his dives are now shark specific.
Paradoxically, he revealed that the world s greatest predator wasn t sharks, but man. An estimated 73 million sharks are mutilated annually for shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in Asian restaurants worldwide. DNA evidence collected from soup samples in U.S. restaurants conclusively revealed that the Tiger shark, Bull shark, and two different species of Hammerhead shark, have been caught and mutilated for their fins.
Conversely, humans are not the diet of sharks, Spielvogel said. Their senses are so sharp they know the difference between their normal diet and human flesh. Sharks are scavengers. They keep the ocean clean and are a vital part of the ocean s eco-system. Depletion of sharks will radically affect oceanic balance.
To reverse the trend of catching and mutilating sharks for their fins, a world-wide conservation movement is aimed at educating the public. One of Spielvogel s shark photographs was selected by Ocean Geographic as the poster child for this campaign and has been used on billboards throughout China for the cause.
Spielvogel said knowing the personality traits of shark species makes their annihilation even more disturbing.
Hammerhead sharks are very shy, and avoid people, Spielvogel said. Whale sharks are gentle giants. Tiger and Lemon sharks are very engaging and can even be playful. They ve become peoplelized because of the diver interaction in specific regions. And what about the Great White shark? Spielvogel said, That s a different species in and of itself commanding the most respect. It s the consummate predator. It s the top-of-the-food-chain hunter.
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